Friday, February 27, 2009

27: climb

As a child, a favorite pastime of mine was jumping off stairs.

On a recent urban mountain-climbing jaunt on Potrero Hill, I found my camera drawn to the stairs leading to other people's houses. I always liked the shapes in staircases: something about that orderly repetitive jaggedness is so pleasing to the eye. The replicated pattern leans and stretches toward infinity.

And now I am thinking: why must we always be going up? We as a people are obsessed with building the tallest structures and scaling the highest mountains. Maybe it is a part of our collective unconscious to associate high places with the heavens, and thus we are drawn to them because something tells us we will be closer to God there. I think it is no coincidence that we equate belief in God or some other-named great spirit with belief in a higher power, where higher may refer both to intangible creative and moral stature as well as to relative physical situation.

On the other hand, our reachings skyward are not always so noble or spiritual. We are obsessed with rising above mediocrity and above the past. We climb the corporate ladder and scale the ranks of academic and government positions. Most commonly, and worst of all, we are obsessed with rising above one another. Where do we think we are going? And why do we insist on doing it alone? What do we expect to gain by getting there before anyone else?

Let us continue to build stairs, but let them be wide enough that more than one person can climb them at a time. And then we'll explore the heights together.


Anonymous said...

This is a good segue to one of my favorite (picture) books, Hope for the Flowers.

Ben said...

I think my pleasure in going up is related to my love of cartography. Since I was little I've enjoyed looking at maps, Google Earth and Google Maps are a guilt pleasure of mine. It may be related to math as well. I see the small parts every day, the individual pieces of the puzzle. However, until I'm high up on a hill or mountain (which I always prefer to a building) I can't see them together.